Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Brannew leads chase to win

Crew morale on Close Halled wasn’t good until they found a stowaway who could steer at the 2013 Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race
Graeme Hall
On the morning of day four of the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, and with line honours taken yesterday afternoon by Queensland’s Wild Thing (Grant Wharington) in one of the closest finishes in history, the chase continues to win overall the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual 384 nautical mile race.

After sunrise on a windless ocean in Southport this morning, Chris Bran’s Beneteau 40 CR, Brannew(NSW) continued his overnight lead for the major trophy, with earlier race leader, Phil Molony’s A40, Papillon (NSW), still clinging to second place. The two need to keep those still on the race course behind them on handicap, and to finish before 4.54pm and 4.08pm respectively today. At 7.30am, both were on track to do so.

Also in the mix for the overall win are those sitting in third and fourth place; Wild Rose, Roger Hickman’s Farr 43 and Andy Kearnan’s Summit 35,L‘Altra Donna, both from NSW.

Waiting in the wings to see what pans out are the likes of Rod Jones’ Welbourn 50, Audi Sunshine Coast, which finished at 4.51am this morning and is currently placed fifth overall. Jones will have to wait and see if the current top four finish in the allotted time to beat him.

Jones and his crew sailed a near-perfect race given the conditions and the fact their boat is originally a 1989 build. She was the original Heaven Can Wait, which her then owner, Warren Johns represented Australia and won with during her heyday. Since his purchase, Jones has brought the boat bang up-to-date with help from English designer, Hugh Welbourn.

Only 12 yachts had finished the race at 7.20am. Most of those still racing are due in throughout today and this evening.

Celestial with their A3 up at the 2013 Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race
Sam Haynes, Celestial

The latest to finish, shortly after 7.15am, was Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46, Celestial. The NSW yachtsman reported last evening: 'We went out to sea last night - it was a decision not without risk- and it looked bad at first, as the inshore boats we were with were well up.'

'But then the predicted east-south-east breeze got up and we changed the A1 to an A3 and had a good run, then several park ups etc. There are heaps of holes out here! We caught up to Scarlet Runner, which was stopped about 35 mile south of Ballina - it's that sort of race.

'Saw a Marlin fish, a first for me in the wild, like that and several whale pods, dolphins, etc. We are giving it all we have got and working the boat hard,' Haynes said.

Darryl Hodgkinson sailed his new purchase, the former Cookson 50, Jazz, now known as Victoire, into what has translated to a Division 0 victory after crossing the line at 2.22am. The Sydney plastic surgeon was thrilled with their first ocean race on the new boat, after upgrading from his successful Beneteau 45 that won him the 2011 Blue Water Point Score.

'We’re all thrilled with the boat’s first major shakedown we’re all chuffed,' Hodgkinson said. 'It looks like we’ve won our division in our first big race together, so we’re very pleased.

'It was a long, lumpy and variable wind race,' he said. 'The only real downside was Danny (McConville) forgot to bring the apples, so the crew weren't too happy and haven’t forgiven him,' said the jovial doctor who claimed: 'We’ve moved up into the high rent district with the Cookson and we’re looking forward to the next race.'

Yacht crews have been finding ways to fill in the slow hours, including whale and other wild life spotting. But on Close Halled, Graeme Hall and his crew found other diversions, including a new helmsman, who Hall claimed: 'Crew morale? Wasn't so good till they found a stowaway. At least she could steer!

2013 Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race

'Race has been a bit up and down. Had a great first day with Code Zero, but got caught a little wide on the first night. It’s been a bit of catch up since.'

Mortgage Choice Rumba (Robert Carr/Stephanie Cook/Kerry Burke) is last on line, sailing at four knots of Coffs Harbour at 7.15am this morning. Her nearest competitor is Greg Zyner’s Copernicus, 15 miles ahead.

The good news for those left at sea is today’s weather report, which predicts 10-15 knot south/south-easterlies for those nearing Southport, while the back marker will have it even better, with winds set to increase to 20/25 in the afternoon a nice kite ride to the finish.

On Wednesday, the forecast includes a strong wind warning, with 20-30 knots by midday, by which stage the last of the fleet should have arrived in Southport.

So far, only nine yachts have finished the first race of the CYCA’s Blue Water Point Score, with Wedgetail (Bill Wild), finishing fourth on line shortly after midnight, Andrew Wenham’s Southern Excellence II finished next, just after 2.00am, followed by Jim Cooney’s Brindabella, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire, Bob Steel’s Quest and then Audi Sunshine Coast.

Three more yachts retired last evening; Illusion, Icefire and Chancellor, bringing the total to eight retirements. Most were due to time constraints, with crew having to return to work.

The CYCA’s proven yacht tracker system will allow family, friends and yachting enthusiasts to follow the race and their favourite yachts for its duration. Each yacht will be fitted with a Yellowbrick tracker that will obtain a position using the GPS satellite network, and then transmit that position back to Yellowbrick HQ using the Iridium satellite network.

Each yacht’s position is then visualised on the race yacht tracker map via, or overlaid on Google Earth. In addition, the yacht tracker system also shows distance to finish line and progressive corrected time positions under the IRC, ORCi and PHS handicap divisions throughout the race.

Gold Coast website